The mythical “Florida Man” has gotten a bad rap, with the meme buttressing a stereotypical narrative that gives one pause when looking at news stories from the Sunshine State.
But in this case, the Florida man is actually a real-life hero whose actions represent the giving spirit of the holiday season.
When U.S. military veteran Michael Esmond got his utility bill for December, he couldn’t help but recall how he had once failed to keep his home warm as he struggled with financial difficulty.
Esmond explained that his heating was cut off as temperatures plunged into the single-digits.
He told WEARTV:
“Back in the 80s I actually lived that. 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.”
Since then, Esmond has seen his fortunes improve as he became the owner of a successful small business called Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas in the Florida city of Gulf Breeze.
With past misfortunes in mind, Esmond felt like paying it forward this month as he went to pay off his gas bill.
Esmond contacted his local utility provider and asked if he could pay off the utility bills for those households that were at risk of having their gas and power disconnected.
He eventually paid $4,600 worth of debts for 36 families.
The season of giving is here. Michael Esmond paid off 36 families’ utility bills. He found out who was at risk of having their power turned off. He spent $4,600 making their holidays a little less stressful.
— Danielle Apolinar (@DanielleApoNews) December 17, 2019
Rather than receive warnings that their homes will go dark, families will now receive cards from Esmond. The cards 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 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.”
The Florida man hopes that not only will his kind act help homeowners in need during the holidays, but will also inspire his fellow small business owners to follow in his stead and give back to their communities.
Esmond told CNN:
“I was hoping I could set a standard for companies that are about the size of mine … we can still do something and give something back.”