After the pandemic put a pause on her drumming career, Hannah Blilie discovered a new rhythm in community service through her involvement with Meals on Wheels People. Although she’s once again behind the drum kit for Fur Coats and Bijoux Cone, she continues to make time for her weekly deliveries, ensuring her newfound mission of serving her community doesn’t skip a beat.
Hannah Blilie can still remember what it’s like to be on stage and have tens of thousands of fans belting out the lyrics to her band’s songs. As the drummer for the critically acclaimed indie rock band Gossip, helmed by singer Beth Ditto, Hannah toured worldwide, played at the most iconic venues, and thrived on the energy of live performances.
“The closest I can describe it is a feeling of flying,” Hannah says. “It’s this energy that encapsulates your whole soul. Physically, mentally, emotionally — it fills you up.”
When Hannah joined Gossip in 2004, the band was playing at punk rock venues in Seattle and at small festivals around the Pacific Northwest. The group shot to global fame in 2006 with its turbo-charged gay rights anthem “Standing in the Way of Control.”
“We came from punk rock, and glitz and glamor and mainstream success was very foreign to us,” Hannah says. “At that time, there weren’t any queer bands in the mainstream of music. We were breaking ground. But I never had this feeling of, ‘Oh, I’m a rock star, and you need to worship me.’ We really connected with our audience. We were all part of the movement together. We were all having that experience together and feeding off each other.”
The band split in 2016, but Hannah kept making music, playing with the Portland R&B band Chanti Darling. When the pandemic hit, Hannah lost access to what she once considered her lifeline — the music, the community, the adrenaline rush of playing to a crowd.
“It was hard,” Hannah says. “Music for me — it’s my art, it’s my outlet, it’s my way to process feelings, to get out angst and frustration. It’s a mental health thing for me. A lot of musicians I know struggled having that all taken away all of a sudden. The rug got pulled out from under us.”
Drumsticks to Doorsteps
With a sudden surplus of time on her hands, Hannah began searching for ways to give back to her community, to create some good in a world that seemed to be teetering on the brink. She found her answer in Meals on Wheels People.
“I was raised by my grandmother,” says Hannah, who grew up outside of Seattle. “I have a soft spot for people in need, especially older adults and people who are homebound.”
Hannah started delivering meals four days a week. Each delivery brought her face to face — or mask to mask — with individuals who, much like herself, were grappling with the isolation and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic. Yet, despite their hardships, they demonstrated a resilience that was nothing short of inspiring. Every smile, every word of gratitude she received was a potent reminder of the essential goodness of humanity, even in the toughest of times.
Volunteering with Meals on Wheels People was good for Hannah, too. The work gave her a renewed sense of purpose, and her interactions with the recipients of the meals she delivered offered an antidote to the isolation she felt: “Spending two years at home, not seeing friends, not playing music — doing my deliveries and being able to see friendly faces and catch up, it was important for my well-being as well.”
When Hannah thinks back on her time with MOWP, one incident stands out. One of her regular clients didn’t respond to the knock on the door from a MOWP delivery driver. Sensing something amiss, the volunteer initiated a welfare check. The man had been lying on his floor for a couple of days in a diabetic coma. “The next week when I came, he had made this big poster that said ‘Thank you, Meals on Wheels. You saved my life,’” Hannah recalls. “I saw him today. I still deliver to him. If we hadn’t been there, what could have happened? It’s so nice to see him up and well.”
Every time she sees him, she is reminded of the incredible power of the seemingly simple act of delivering meals. It’s not just about the food. It’s about the care, the vigilance, and the human connection that can make all the difference in someone’s life.
Striking a New Chord
Hannah recently started playing music again, now with the bands Fur Coats and Bijoux Cone, but she still drives for Meals on Wheels People every Monday.
“I have clients I’ve been seeing for years now. I have a bond with them,” Hannah says. “They complain when I have to take a day off. I feel a real closeness and a real love for them. It fills my heart. I’ve stuck with it because it’s as beneficial to me as it is to them. I get a real sense of gratitude and satisfaction when I see them open the door and smile at me.”
We need volunteers to provide critical support to the older adults we serve. Become a part of our volunteer family and help change a life, one meal and friendly connection at a time. Visit mowp.org/volunteer.