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Giving season: Business owner pays overdue utility bills for 114 families

In 2019, a Florida business owner by the name of Michael Esmond wanted to help out struggling members of his community, Gulf Breeze, by paying the utility bills of 36 households.

This year, Esmond felt the need to up the ante with both Hurricane Sally and the Covid-19 pandemic causing economic turmoil in his community. That’s why he decided to spend $7,615.40 to cover the utility bills of 114 families who were facing disconnection.

“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,” said Esmond. ”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.”

The utility bills he paid belonged to people with bills that were more than 60 days due, which is the point where they face the risk of disconnection. According to the city’s utility billing supervisor, Joanne Oliver, holiday cards will be mailed out this week to notify the fortunate residents. “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,” Oliver said.

Esmond’s decision to help out his neighbors didn’t come out of the blue. His generosity comes from a place of understanding after his utilities were shut off in the 1980s.

“I have been down on my luck like people are today, where I had trouble paying bills and raising three daughters,” he said.”I can relate to people suffering and not being able to pay bills. ”That’s probably one of the biggest motivators for me because I’ve been there.”

For those of us at the Optimist Daily, it’s simple acts of kindness like this one that restores our faith in humanity in these challenging times.

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