Although most reports that begin with the words "a Florida man" involve someone who was arrested for doing something most people would consider ill-advised, Michael Esmond is a rare exception. The Gulf Breeze resident has captured the nation's attention for doing something extraordinarily kind for the holidays.
Esmond, the owner of Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas near Pensacola, has shelled out $4,600 to pay the electric bills for 36 families. He says the idea came to him when he opened his own bill and flashed back to a time when seeing the total would have been upsetting to him. "I actually lived that back in the 1980s," Esmond says. "I experienced the same thing, having trouble paying bills. My gas was shut off, and we had no heating for the whole winter." So he did some research, found out which families in his neighborhood were scheduled to have their power disconnected, and paid their outstanding balances.
Esmond informed the recipients of his good will that he'd saved Christmas by sending each a card. It read, in part, "It is our honor and privilege to inform you that your past due utility bill has been paid by Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas." Gulf Breeze utility billing supervisor Joanne Oliver says, "It made me cry. For someone like him ... to come in and do some grand gesture, it was heartfelt for me."