A Florida man is giving back this holiday season after experiencing his own troubling time years ago.
Mike Esmond recently paid close to $4,600 in gas and water bills for 36 families in the city of Gulf Breeze, helping folks whose payments were past due, the Pensacola News Journal reports.
The Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas owner, 73, told the outlet that he decided to perform the kind act after experiencing similar circumstances back in 1983.
Esmond said he and his three daughters spent Christmas in the cold that year after he could not afford to pay the heat and power bill. It also happened to be a record-breaking year for Pensacola, as the temperature dropped to just 9 degrees.
“That year, we didn’t have any heat and it was the coldest recorded temperature [in December] Pensacola has ever had,” Esmond recalled to the outlet. “We had icicles hanging off our windows.”
Wanting to ensure that no one in his community ever had to endure the same experience, Esmond took a trip to Gulf Breeze and asked the city for a list of the utility accounts that were late and at risk of having their gas and water turned off.
The list showed that 36 families were currently struggling — so Esmond generously paid off every single water and gas bill.
“I wanted to do something that I felt would really help people at Christmas time who are trying to decide between paying bills and maybe having something cut off, or buying presents for their family,” Esmond told the Pensacola News Journal.
“When I got my utility bill this month, I noticed that it said the cutoff date was Dec. 26, so I went to the city and asked how many people were going to have their gas or water shut off before Christmas, so they gave me the numbers and I paid them,” he explained.
After his kind gesture, the city sent out cards to the households who were at-risk and notified them that Esmond had paid off the bills.
“It is our honor and privilege to inform you that your past due utility bill has been paid by Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas,” the card read, according to the outlet. “You can rest easier this holiday season knowing you have one less bill to pay.”
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The impacted Florida residents were understandably stunned when they learned of Esmond’s actions, with one beneficiary, Angela Cascio, telling the outlet that she “burst into tears” upon the discovery and is “forever grateful” to him.
Esmond said he didn’t think twice about paying off the bills, especially because he experienced similar circumstances years ago and has the ability to help others now.
“I’ve lived it,” he told the Pensacola News Journal. “I raised three daughters and struggled and had hard times in my life where I couldn’t pay bills, so I know what it’s like to live like that. It makes me feel good to help people out, especially when you’re expecting a disconnect notice in the mail and you get a Christmas card like that instead.”
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The small business owner also said he hopes that his act of kindness will inspire others to do the same this holiday season.
“It’s who I am now because I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m not struggling with bills anymore and I can share some of my success,” he said. “I’m no Quint Studer or Fred Levin, I can pay my bills but I’m certainly not somebody that’s rich.”
“I’m hoping that I can send a message to other businessmen or people that are in the same status as me that there are people out there that can be helped,” he added. “You don’t have to be a millionaire to help people.”