When Michael Esmond saw the Dec. 26 due date on his utility bill, he had a flashback to 1983. "My gas was shut off, and we had no heating for the whole winter," one of the coldest ever in Florida, the 73-year-old father of three tells CNN. Indeed, as the temperature dipped to 9 degrees on Christmas Day, "we had icicles hanging off our windows," the Gulf Breeze business owner tells the Pensacola News Journal. His thoughts upon receiving his most recent bill immediately turned to those who might suffer a similar fate this year. Now, 36 families won't have to. Esmond, of Gulf Breeze Pools and Spas, tracked down a list of accounts with overdue bills, then paid $4,600 to settle them. The community's utility billing supervisor was left in tears, as was mother of four Angela Cascio, who received the good news in a holiday card.
"You can rest easier this holiday season knowing you have one less bill to pay," read the note, which prompted Cascio to burst into tears. "Angels absolutely walk among us," she told the News Journal in a Facebook message, noting her children, ages 7 to 17, might otherwise have gone without Christmas presents. "I am forever grateful. Esmond tells CNN there's been "great feedback" on Facebook, while people have also been calling and texting him with their thanks. "I wanted to do something that I felt would really help people at Christmas" and "it makes me feel good," the Vietnam veteran tells the News Journal. "I'm finally at a point in my life where I'm not struggling with bills anymore and I can share some of my success," he adds. "You don't have to be a millionaire to help people." (Read more uplifting news stories.)