We are seeing the inherent generosity of humanity on display now more than ever. And it’s no different for this Florida man who just paid off the utilities of 114 households at risk of facing disconnection.
Michael Esmond, 74, is no stranger to helping people in need. Last year, he paid off the 36 utility bills of struggling families in his Gulf Breeze community.
This year, the Vietnam veteran is doing it again.
The pandemic has caused many people in the city to lose their jobs. And when Hurricane Sally hit in September, things got so much worse for many local residents.
“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. 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,” Esmond told CNN.
Wanting to give back to his community, the man donated $7,615.40 to cover the past due utilities of 114 households. Joanne Oliver, Gulf Breeze’s utility billing supervisor, said holiday cards notifying the residents of the happy news will be mailed this week.
With his donation, Esmond was able to help around three times as many households compared to last year, when he donated $4,600. Many residents had bills due of $100 or less, so he was able to support more families this time.
“That really impacted me — that people can’t even afford to pay a $100 bill on their utilities and things are so bad,” he said. “That’s why I was able to pay for 114 families.”
Despite the difficulties brought about by the pandemic, Esmond’s business, Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas, did well this year. While this is great news, it’s something he’s “almost ashamed” to tell others because he knows how challenging the situation has been for many.
“We’ve had a good year, and that’s why I want to share what I have with the people who need it,” he said.
Many families in Gulf Breeze are still recovering from Hurricane Sally’s lingering impact and the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic.
Recognizing their struggles, Oliver said residents are being granted a longer grace period before their utilities for gas, water, and sewer are cut off. They’re not disconnecting them until they are over 60 days past due.
Esmond’s donation covered the bills for families who were 60 days overdue. The balance after that paid for the utilities of those who were more than 30 days past due and who were directly affected by COVID-19.
“Even though our country and our city is currently going through probably the most difficult years of some of our lifetimes, there are still people out there who are generous and kind and really do want to help others,” the city’s utility billing supervisor said. “To have others within the community wanting to reach out and help their neighbors, now is more important than ever.”
Esmond can relate to these struggling families because he’s been there. He once went through a rough patch in the 1980s and had trouble paying the bills. He was raising his three daughters then.
Since he couldn’t pay for his utilities, the gas company shut their gas off, and they didn’t have any heat. The temperatures then were in the single digits, and it was the coldest winter he’s ever experienced in the area.
Luckily, he was able to rise out of that, and now, he wants to help others who are in a similar situation.
Esmond hopes his donation will help these families have a more joyous holiday season, despite the hardships this year has brought.
“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.
What a wonderful human being! Help spread the spirit of generosity by sharing this story with your family and friends.