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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Years After Mistaken Thanksgiving Invite, Accidental Tradition Continues

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Thanksgiving is one of the most family-oriented holidays — a time for gratitude, reflection and creating more memories.

Wanda Dench and Jamal Hinton aren’t related by blood, but they’ve forged an unbreakable bond and always spend Thanksgiving together thanks to an erroneous text sent in 2016.

It all began when Dench, who is from Arizona, sent a text to her family, including her grandson, inviting them to Thanksgiving dinner. What she didn’t know was that her grandson had changed his number.

After the new owner of the number wrote back to ask who was texting him, and she said “your grandma,” he asked for a photo of her and sent one of him in reply, making it clear they were strangers.

“You not my grandma,” he responded, according to “Today.” “Can I still get a plate tho.”

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“Of course you can,” Dench replied. “That’s what grandma’s do …feed every one.”

It was 17-year-old Jamal Hinton, also from Arizona, who’d received the wayward invite, but what started as a mistake has ended in a deep friendship.

“I just clicked when I met him and first talked to him,” Dench told NBC News in 2016. “(I thought), ‘Oh my gosh, I want to get to know this guy.’ “

“It was a reminder that there are still some good people left in this world,” Hinton said of his adoptive grandma, according to People. “She is a very sweet lady, she told me her husband was a veteran and she always invited his friends over for dinner, so she’s used to having a lot of people over. I just got a vibe from her that made me feel at home.”

Every year since then, Hinton has had a place at the Dench family table, and they take a photo every year.

Hinton’s girlfriend, Mikaela, has been welcomed as well.

Last year was difficult for the Dench family, as Wanda and her husband, Lonnie, came down with COVID early in the year.

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“I am so sad to announce that Wanda and Lonnie both have COVID-19 and that Lonnie is currently in the hospital fighting both COVID and Pneumonia please send words of love and encouragement their way,” Hinton shared on Instagram on April 1, 2020.

Wanda recovered, but Lonnie didn’t. He died in April; Thanksgiving would never be the same.

But the group still gathered, and they took their annual photo — this time standing around a framed photo of their beloved Lonnie.

“Thank you @wandadench for such an amazing celebration!” Hinton tweeted on Nov. 26, 2020. “You are such a blessing to this world. We miss you Lonnie.”

Hinton has kept followers updated, and on Nov. 14 he revealed that plans for Thanksgiving 2021 were settled.

“We are all set for year 6!” he tweeted, along with a screenshot of the text invite.

This friendship that started accidentally is still going strong, and Wanda is happy to have two more people in the family — especially since she was raised in a military family, something that has shaped her philosophy regarding strangers and family.

“We moved around a lot, so I was always going to new places,” she told ABC News. “And so strangers were not strangers to me.

“Family is more than blood. It’s the people you want to be with.”

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Amanda holds an MA in Rhetoric and TESOL from Cal Poly Pomona. After teaching composition and logic for several years, she's strayed into writing full-time and especially enjoys animal-related topics.
As of January 2019, Amanda has written over 1,000 stories for The Western Journal but doesn't really know how. Graduating from California State Polytechnic University with a MA in Rhetoric/Composition and TESOL, she wrote her thesis about metacognitive development and the skill transfer between reading and writing in freshman students.
She has a slew of interests that keep her busy, including trying out new recipes, enjoying nature, discussing ridiculous topics, reading, drawing, people watching, developing curriculum, and writing bios. Sometimes she has red hair, sometimes she has brown hair, sometimes she's had teal hair.
With a book on productive communication strategies in the works, Amanda is also writing and illustrating some children's books with her husband, Edward.
Austin, Texas
Languages Spoken
English und ein bißchen Deutsch
Topics of Expertise
Faith, Animals, Cooking