Florida man pays utility bills for 36 families as Christmas present

A Florida businessman is making sure some families in the Panhandle will have electricity and gas for the Christmas holiday.

Michael Esmond paid off 36 delinquent utility accounts in the city of Gulf Breeze, the Pensacola News Journal reported. Esmond went to city officials earlier this month to find out how many bills were past due. He paid them off.

Earlier this month, Esmond, 73, went to the city of Gulf Breeze and requested a list of all utility accounts that were past due and at risk of having their gas and water turned off. There were 36 households with past due accounts, and the Gulf Breeze resident paid off $4,600 worth of bills, the newspaper reported.

"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," Esmond, who owns Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas, told the News Journal. "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."

Esmond said he can sympathize with people behind on their bills. He’s been there before.

"Back in the 80s I actually lived that," Esmond told WEAR-TV. "I experienced a time where I had trouble paying bills. And we actually had the gas disconnected. It happened to be one of the coldest winters in history."

So, instead of receiving disconnection notices, families received cards with the good news, WEAR reported.

“It is our honor and privilege to inform you that your past due utility bill has been paid by Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas," the note read. "You can rest earlier 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.”

Angela Cascio was one of the people whose bills were paid. The mother of four was stunned when she received the card.

"Without (Gulf Breeze Pools) paying that bill, my kids' Christmases would have greatly suffered," Cascio told the News Journal in a Facebook message Monday. "Angels absolutely walk among us, and they are the epitome of kindness and what 'paying it forward' means to me."

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