According to Joan Oliver, the city’s utility billing supervisor, Esmond contributed $ 7,615.40 to pay past arrears on 114 homes. They say holiday cards informing employees will be mailed this week.
When Esmond’s contribution increased from the $ 4,600 he gave last year, he says he was able to help three times as much as the household. He was able to help more people because there were so many residents with bills of $ 100 or less.
“It really affected me – people can’t even pay $ 100 for their utilities, things are so bad,” Esmond said. “That’s why I was able to give money to 114 families.”
Esmond, 74, who owns Gulf Breeze Pools and Spa, said business was great in 2020. He says he’s almost ashamed to tell people, because he knows how difficult it is for many people.
“We had a good year, which is why I want to Share what I have with the people who need it, ”he said.
Brad Baker, director of public safety in Santa Rosa County, said in a Facebook video in September that a barge had crashed into an area known as the Three Mile Bridge.
Oliver, the city’s utility billing supervisor, said residents are getting more grace periods before water, gas and sewage are cut off, given the epidemic affecting the city.
“We do not cut customers. We do not disconnect them for more than 60 days for non-payment,” Oliver said.
They say the check written by Esmond includes bills for people past 60 days. Its potential affected those with a delay of more than 30 days, those with Kovid-19 deferral, and those directly infected with the virus.
“Even though our country and city are currently going through some of the most difficult years of our lives, there are still people out there who are polite, kind, and willing to help others,” Oliver said. “It’s more important than ever to want to reach out to others in the community and help neighbors.”
From a place where you understand Esmond’s poverty. His utilities closed in the 1980s.
“People were as addicted to my luck as they are today, where it was hard for me to pay the bills and raise three daughters,” he said. “The gas company shut down the gas, and we have no heat.”
It was the coldest winter he had ever experienced in the area, and the temperature was in the single digits, he says.
“I can connect with people who are struggling and can’t pay their bills,” Esmond said. “That was probably the biggest motivation for me, because I was there.”
The timing of Esmond’s contribution is no coincidence.
“People can’t pay their bills and put food on the table, so I hope doing my part and giving these people a few bills will put a little bit of pressure on them during Christmas,” he said.
CNN’s Nicole Chavez and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.