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A kind-hearted Florida businessman is playing Santa for the second holiday season in a row — this year reportedly paying the overdue utilities bills for 114 families who were at risk of losing service.
“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,” Michael Esmond, 74, told CNN.
Esmond, the owner of a pool installation company in Gulf Breeze, shelled out over $7,600 this year for families whose bills were past due, the city’s utility billing supervisor, Joanne Oliver, told the outlet.
“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,” Esmond said.
In addition to the pandemic, Gulf Breeze, a city on the Florida Panhandle, endured the wrath of Hurricane Sally.
Esmond said he was able to continue his generosity because his business this year did well.
Last year, he paid $4,600 to help 36 families pay their water and gas bills.
But the business owner wasn’t always in the financial position he now enjoys, something he said helps him empathize with those struggling.
“I have been down on my luck like people are today, where I had trouble paying bills and raising three daughters,” he told CNN. “The gas company shut the gas off and we didn’t have any heat.
“I can relate to people suffering and not being able to pay bills,” Esmond said. “That’s probably one of the biggest motivators for me, because I’ve been there.”