Man Pays Bills For 114 Families At Risk Of Having Utilities Cut Off
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A man in the US has paid the bills of 114 families who were at risk of having their utilities cut off.
Michael Esmond, from Gulf Breeze, Florida, coughed up a total of $7,615.40 (£5,760) to cover the overdue bills.
Speaking to CNN, the 74-year-old said: "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.
"I have been down on my luck like people are today, where I had trouble paying bills and raising three daughters.
"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. That's probably one of the biggest motivators for me, because I've been there."
This kind of generosity is nothing new for Michael, who parted with $4,600 (£3,480) to pay the bills of 36 households last year.
This time he was able to help more than three times as many families, despite less than doubling his donation - though Michael doesn't see this as a good thing.
He said: "That really impacted me - that people can't even afford to pay a $100 bill on their utilities and things are so bad. That's why I was able to pay for 114 families.
"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.
"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."
Things haven't been so bad for Michael though, who owns Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas. Business has been buoyant throughout 2020, although Michael said he has felt 'almost ashamed' by this success amid the widespread suffering this year.
He said: "We've had a good year, and that's why I want to share what I have with the people who need it."
Michael's cheque covered the bills of people in the community who were 60 days overdue, with the remainder helping those who were 30 days overdue. They will receive Christmas cards notifying them of Michael's good deed.
Joanne Oliver, the city's utility billing supervisor, told CNN: "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.
"To have others within the community wanting to reach out and help their neighbours, now is more important than ever."