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Trae and Rogers with John Kenner, a senior adviser at Halliburton, during a food and water giveaway. Photograph by Michael Starghill
The Friday and Saturday after the winter storm, former Houston Rockets star James Harden teamed up with the Relief Gang for food and water distribution; that same Saturday, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s organization Beygood also joined forces with Trae to provide further aid. By late afternoon, Trae and Rogers were visiting their third location of the day, handing out meals at the Yale Village Apartments, a brick complex on the north side of town. Residents formed a line that stretched down the block as Trae coordinated with a crew of about twenty volunteers to prepare for their next stop. “Everybody go back to the warehouse. A few of us will stay here,” Trae said, assuming they would finish quickly. The line paled in comparison to the crowds they’d served earlier in the day; he said they’d already provided supplies to thousands of recipients.
As Trae passed out bags to families, the 38-year-old Rogers (whose real first name is Justin, though few call him that, even casually) leaned against a truck and explained how earlier that week, Trae had called him and they’d begun delivering power generators and space heaters. “I had, like, a thousand tea candles. And I had lighters and lanterns and stuff like that—you know, apocalypse, end-of-the-world, doomsday preparation stuff,” he said.
Even after the electricity came back on, when it would have been easier to give money to another organization and move on with their lives, the Relief Gang was still carving out flooded drywall, rounding up volunteers, and connecting plumbers with residents in need. Trae and Rogers paid for materials out of pocket when they ran low on donations.
There was only one more stop scheduled for the day, Rogers said, though volunteers knew that time was rather elastic in the Relief Gang world. The previous night, an early evening “last stop” had stretched into the morning hours.