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Florida Army veteran pays off past due utility bills for hundreds of strangers

He once spent a Christmas without heat and power. Now, he's making sure nobody else in his community does.
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Utility bill past due, seal stamped on document, payment for services, charges

GULF BREEZE, Fla. — A swimming pool construction contractor, who was rewarded by the Planters peanut company for being a good Samaritan, is continuing to give back to those in need.

Over the previous two Christmas seasons, Mike Esmond donated about $12,000 to pay off past due utility bills for people in Gulf Breeze, Florida.

Then, in March, Planters sent Esmond a check for $104,000 for his good works as part of the company’s “A Nut Above” campaign. Since then, Esmond has continued helping with past-due utility bills, paying off balances for an additional 677 accounts.

Last week, he provided money to pay off another 29 accounts, bringing his total donation for the year to about $85,000.

Esmond will never forget the Christmas in 1983 that he and his three daughters spent without heat and power because he couldn't pay his own bill. Since then, the small business owner has made it his mission to help others.

“I’ve had some older, retired people call me crying on the phone, because I paid their bills, because they live on Social Security, and they don’t know what’s going on,” Esmond told the Pensacola News Journal. “So it’s not only families. There’s older single people that you know, are in this predicament also.”

The U.S. Army veteran has donated more than $96,000 over the last three years, according to the Associated Press, and plans to continue doing so as long as he can afford to.

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