This past year has been a challenging one for many people. The coronavirus pandemic has led to illness, death and widespread job loss. In Florida, residents had to contend with the added hardship of Hurricane Sally in September.
When Florida grandfather Michael Esmond learned that some of his neighbors were faced with the prospect of having their utilities turned off due to their inability to pay the bills, he decided to lend a helping hand. Esmond wrote a check for $7,615.40 to cover the utility bills for 114 households in his community of Gulf Breeze.
And this is not the first time Esmond has showed generosity to his neighbors. Last year, he donated $4,600 to cover past-due utility bills.
“This year to me probably is more meaningful than last year with the pandemic and all the people out of work having to stay home,” Esmond told CNN. “Hurricane Sally slammed us pretty good and hurt a lot of people. We still have a lot of the blue roofs here, where they’re just covered with tarps.”
Last year, reporter Danielle Apolinar tweeted out some photos of Esmond and the cards that the beneficiaries of his $4,600 donation received, in which they learned that they no longer owed those bills:
The season of giving is here. Michael Esmond paid off 36 families’ utility bills. He found out who was at risk of having their power turned off. He spent $4,600 making their holidays a little less stressful.
— Danielle Apolinar (@DanielleApoNews) December 17, 2019
“It is our honor and our privilege to inform you that your past due utility bill has been paid by Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas,” the cards read in part.
Esmond says he’s inspired to help his neighbors because he knows what it’s like to struggle to pay the bills. In the 1980s, he endured a winter without gas service due to nonpayment of his bill. Today, however, Esmond is doing well and his business is thriving. For Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas, 2020 was a successful year, with many families deciding to install pools to beat the heat at home because of reduced access to public pools and beaches.
Esmond felt it was only right to pay his good fortune forward.
“People can’t afford to pay their bills and put food on the table, so I hope doing my part and paying some bills for these folks takes a little bit of stress off of them around Christmas time,” he said.
Esmond is not the only person to come to the aid of those struggling to pay their bills. Gulf Breeze utility billing supervisor Joanne Oliver told Yahoo Life that Bigham Cable Construction Company donated $42,000 to help 252 households with their past-due bills, and three more donors — two of which were anonymous — donated $1,750.
Kudos to these generous folks who are showing what the season of giving is all about!