A Florida man who lived in poverty at one time in his life, has helped spread some Christmas cheer by paying off utility bills for 36 families in his neighborhood.
Michael Esmond, owner of Gulf Breeze Pools & Spa near Pensacola, said years ago in the eighties, he was at risk of having his utilities disconnected but said now he just spent $4,600 to give his neighbors “a happier Christmas and take a little bit of stress out.”
“I actually lived that back in the 1980s,” he said. “I experienced the same thing, having trouble paying bills. My gas was shut off, and we had no heating for the whole winter.”
“It was one of the coldest winters in Florida; temperature got down to the single digits,” Esmond continued. “That was definitely in my mind when I received the bill this year.”
Esmond has close ties with his community of 6,000 people and wanted to give back, he said.
“I got a great feedback on my Facebook page and business phone. People were texting me and calling me to thank me for what I had done,” he said.
“It made me cry. It made me cry,” Joanne Oliver, Gulf Breeze’s utility billing supervisor, said. “For someone like him, a veteran to come in and do some grand gesture. It was heartfelt for me.”
To their relief, the families received from the city holiday cards — not warnings. They read: “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. On behalf of Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas we here at the City of Gulf Breeze would like to wish you and your family a happy holiday season.”
What a wonderful time for Michael Esmond to give back to the community after he himself experienced first-hand what poverty felt like.
As we approach Christmas, a time where many families struggle to make ends meet and provide for their families, let us reach out to at least one person or family and help them with whatever we can do for them.