Florida man spends $4,550 to pay strangers' utilities bills before Christmas
"Never have I seen this type of generosity," one woman said.
When Mike Esmond saw that his utility bill was due on Dec. 26, he thought back to the winter he and his family spent without heat.
They had fallen on hard times and weren't able to pay their bill.
This year, he was grateful he didn't have such a worry. But he thought of the families who did and decided to help in anyway he could.
Esmond, a 73-year-old resident of Gulf Breeze, Florida, ended up paying the bills of 36 families who were at risk of having their utilities shut off.
In all, his generosity amounted to $4,558.
"We had ice and icicles hanging out the window inside the house," Esmond told ABC News on Thursday, remembering that winter in the 1980s.
"I didn't want anyone else to go through that same thing. … I wanted to do something that I knew would really make a difference for people around Christmas time," he said.
Esmond figured out how many people were at risk of having their utilities shut off after going to Gulf Breeze City Hall and speaking with an employee.
Joanne Oliver, the utility billing supervisor at Gulf Breeze City Hall who Esmond spoke with, said she was stunned to hear he wanted to pay stranger's bills.
"I've been in the customer service industry for a little over 20 years," Oliver told ABC News. "Never have I seen this type of generosity come from anyone."
The good deed has sparked other residents calling in to see how they can help, according to Oliver.
"There's definitely been an outpouring in the community," Oliver said.
The families whose bills were paid were alerted through a Christmas card that read, "It is our honor and privilege to inform you that your past due utility bill has been paid by Gulf Breeze Pools & Spas. You can rest easier 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."