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Florida man pays off utility bills for 36 families and inspires a movement

MICHAEL ESMOND
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Michael Esmond appreciates how financial struggles can ruin the festive season.

The Christmas season can add financial strain to a lot of families, between all those regular bills and gift buying. This was recently highlighted when Michael Esmond, a Florida businessman in his 70s, paid off the overdue bills of 36 families in his hometown of Gulf Breeze.

The former veteran received his own utility bill, which needed to be paid by December 26. It reminded him of a time in the 1980s when he had to go without power throughout the Christmas season after getting into financial hardship when trying to pay for presents and manage the essentials. This resulted in his family going without gas for the whole of the winter period in what happened to be one of the harshest winters recorded in Pensacola. It was this memory that made him think of the impact these fuel bills might have on some of his neighbors who weren’t so comfortably off.

The former veteran contacted the city of Gulf Breeze and asked if there was a way he could help those whose bills were overdue, as reported in the BBC. The question brought one of the city’s utility supervisors, Joanne Oliver, to tears. She said, “For someone like him, a veteran, to come in and do some grand gesture. It was heartfelt for me.”

Esmond ended up paying $4,600 to help 36 families in his community. And, unbeknownst to Esmond, the city sent out cards to those whose bills had been paid off, stating: “It is our honor and privilege to inform you that your past due utility bill has been paid by Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas. You can rest easier this holiday season knowing you have one less bill to pay.”

The septuagenarian thinks his gesture has really struck a chord with people who are promising to “pay it forward” by getting involved in charitable acts themselves.

The timing of Esmond’s generosity doesn’t just reflect the goodwill we should all show each another. He has inspired a movement that will hopefully continue into the Christmas season and beyond.

 

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