A business owner who was once down on his luck decided to pay it forward.

Last year, Michael Esmond paid the utility bills for 36 households in his Gulf Breeze, Florida community. This year he turned it up a notch because of Hurricane Sally and the pandemic.

"This year to me probably is more meaningful that last year with the pandemic and all the people out of work having to stay home," Esmond said. "We've had a good year, and that's why I want to share what I have with the people who need it.”

Esmond owns a pool and spa supply business that has done well this year, but he knows what it’s like to not be able to pay the bills. In the 1980s, his utilities were shut off and he struggled to raise his three daughters.

He paid more than $7,600 to pay past-due bills for 114 households, according to the city’s utility billing supervisor. Residents will receive a holiday card notifying them that their bills were paid.

"I can relate to people suffering and not being able to pay bills," Esmond said. "That's probably one of the biggest motivators for me, because I've been there. People can't afford to pay their bills and put food on the table, so I hope doing my part and paying some bills for these folks takes a little bit of stress off of them around Christmas time.”