A Vietnam veteran from Florida named Mike Esmond understood what it was like to live a life of hardship. Back then, he and his three daughters went through a very cold Christmas when their heat and power were shut off due to nonpayment. To prevent other families from going through the same, he paid for the electricity bills of 36 households who were at risk of having their gas and water turned off.
It was in December 1983 when Mike and his three daughters, who were living in Pensacola back then, experienced the coldest Christmas of their lives.
“That year, we didn’t have any heat and it was the coldest recorded temperature (in December) Pensacola has ever had,” he recalled. “We had icicles hanging off our windows.”
Now, the 73-year-old is in a much better place than before. He currently owns a successful business called Gulf Breeze Pools and Spa. And to give back to his community, he thought of helping struggling families by taking the burden of paying for their electricity bills off their shoulders.
Earlier this month, he went to the city of Gulf Breeze and requested a list of all utility accounts that were past due or are at risk of having their gas and water shut down. The list produced a total of 36 past due accounts.
Mike paid off every single one of their electricity bills, shelling out approximately $4,600 for all the 36 accounts. His rationale for enacting the good deed was simple.
“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,” Mike said.
“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.”
Instead of receiving notices that their gas and water were being shut off, the 36 families received good news in the mail instead – their electricity bills were already paid for!
“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 note read. “You can rest easier this holiday season knowing you have one less bill to pay.”
Angela Cascio, a Gulf Breeze resident and a mother of four kids between the ages of 7 and 17, is one of the owners of the accounts that Mike paid for. She couldn’t help but cry upon reading the message on the card.
“Without (Gulf Breeze Pools) paying that bill, my kids’ Christmases would have greatly suffered,” Angela told the News Journal in a Facebook message. “Angels absolutely walk among us, and they are the epitome of kindness and what ‘paying it forward’ means to me.”
As a way to show her gratitude, Angela has since made an ornament depicting the Nativity scene that she plans to give to Mike.
“My kids are old enough that they see their mom struggle to make ends meet,” she said. “They saw me burst into tears when I read the card that Gulf Breeze Pools sent to me. I am forever grateful.”
The news of Mike’s good deed spread and since then, his company’s Facebook page has been flooded with comments from people who found themselves as the recipients of his Christmas surprise.
“I’ve lived it,” Mike said. “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.”
Mike hopes that his simple act of kindness will inspire others to pay it forward and let them know that they “don’t have to be a millionaire to help people.”
Watch his interview below:
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