CORRECTION: In a previous version of this article, Lacy Painter was identified with the wrong pronouns and materials that Hillsborough town employees distributed about Zim Torain were identified incorrectly. The article has been updated to reflect the appropriate changes to Painter's pronouns and about the materials distributed. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for these errors.
The Hillsborough community is working together to raise funds for a town employee who recently lost his home and all of his belongings in a fire on Feb. 27.
Donations can be made to Zim Torain by sending monetary aid to the NCSECU Account 060911294 or through GoFundMe.
Zim Torain, an employee for the Hillsborough Utilities Department in the Distribution and Collection Division, was driving to Hillsborough to run errands when he started to receive calls about a fire on his property.
His cousin was among the first to call, leading Torain to believe the news was a joke.
“My first reaction was, ‘Man, stop playing,’” Torain said. “He responded, ‘I’m not playing. Your house is on fire.’ And that’s when it hit me.”
Torain returned from his short trip to town to find first responders and the fire department setting up to fight the fire caused by faulty wiring in a wall socket. Soon the entire house and everything inside was devoured.
The house had been in Torain’s family for decades but was uninsured.
“It’s nothing I ever thought was going to happen to me,” Torain said. “Everything that we have was in that home. Everything.”
Torain’s coworker, Lacy Painter, saw the fire trucks surrounding Torain’s home from his own father’s house just around the corner. Painter’s sister went to school with Torain, and the two worked side by side both in the Utilities Department and on a line crew years before.
“He’s such a valued employee,” Painter said. “It’s hard to see someone you know and work with so closely go through something like that.”
Painter is among the Hillsborough town employees helping collect donations for Torain and his family. The Hillsborough Utilities Department got involved with donations almost immediately, with department Director Marie Strandwitz contacting Torain, his family and his coworkers to create flyers covering the tragedy and how to help.
Laurell Murray, a member of Torain’s graduating class at Orange High School, heard about the fire on Facebook and asked if anyone was collecting for Torain. When others started to ask her, she contacted Torain and created a GoFundMe campaign for the family.
“Our connection as a high school class bonds us for life,” Murray said. “Families take care of each other. I didn’t mean to be the ringleader, but someone needed to create the campaign.”
Torain said he is thankful that Murray, Painter and his coworkers and employees have come together to help his family.
“The city of Hillsborough has really stood up for me," Torain said. “Words don’t really explain how my heart feels — how grateful I am for a town to stand up for somebody at a time like this. It’s a remarkable feeling and it’s hard to explain.”
The collection has been successful so far, Torain and Painter said. The family has received some donations of clothes, toys and supplies for their 15-month-old, as well as clothes for Torain and furniture to replace the items lost. More of these items, as well as shorts and shoes for the coming warmer weather, are still needed.
“My words can’t describe how we feel,” Torain said. “I just want to thank everyone who has donated to my family in any type of way. Anyone who has reached out or checked on us. Thank you for thinking of and blessing my family.”