Thursday marked the sixth Thanksgiving for Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench – the pair who met after a Thanksgiving Day invite was accidentally sent to the wrong number over text message. The two first met in 2016 when Dench, from Mesa, Az., sent a text inviting Hinton over for dinner. It was meant for her grandson, who had changed his phone number. Instead, Hinton, who was 17 at the time, got the message while sitting in class at Desert Vista High School.
Hinton replied” You’re not my grandma,” with a laughing emoji. He then sent back a selfie so Dench knew he was not her grandson and asked if he could stop by for dinner anyway. Dench welcomed him with open arms. “Of course you can. That’s what grandmas do … feed everyone” Dench texted. The former strangers have been sharing the holiday ever since with Hinton documenting the holiday each year on his social media.
Hinton had told his social media followers last week that the two would be celebrating the day together again. “We are all set for year 6!” he wrote, alongside a picture of a text message from Dench inviting him, his girlfriend Mikaela and his family over. He also included a photo of himself, Dench, Mikaela and Dench’s late husband Lonnie, who died in April 2020 after a battle with Covid-19.
Last year, Hinton posted a video on YouTube documenting the 2020 dinner he and Mikaela shared with Dench – months after Dench’s husband Lonnie died. “I want to say thank you to all of the people that sent their blessings and their condolences and their well wishes for me,” Dench said in the video. It’s still going to take a lot of time…but when I get visits from these guys, it really perks me up,” she said.
Since their story went viral in 2016 Dench gets recognized as “Thanksgiving Grandma.” The two have celebrated more than just Thanksgiving together; Christmas, birthdays, and exciting new opportunities have come their way. They also shared their losses together. Wanda credits social media for helping her through the loss of her husband as well. “I get so many people giving condolences, and they’re so genuine and so uplifting,” she said.
Dench said it’s been an amazing journey. “I would have missed out on a wonderful relationship,” Dench said, when asked what would have happened if she hadn’t invited Hinton over years ago. “I’ve changed my view so much on the younger generation, and now that I’ve reflected back on all these years, I didn’t change their life; they changed mine.”
Hinton said Dench is an amazing person and he is blessed to have met her.