Accidental Thanksgiving invitation starts tradition


Jamal and girlfriend Makaela pose with Wanda for their 6th Thanksgiving together, Photo courtesy of People Magazine.

  Jamal Hinton was sitting in class at Desa Vista High School in Mesa Arizona when he received a confusing text message. “Thanksgiving dinner is at my house on November 24th at 3:00 pm. Let me know if you’re coming. Hope to see you all,” the message read. Wanda Dench thought she was texting her grandson, inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner. When her text was responded to with confusion, Wanda soon realized that she was not texting her grandson, but a 17-year-old named Jamal. After resolving the confusion and an exchange of selfies, Hinton prompted Wanda, “Can I still get a plate tho?”

     “Of course you can. That’s what grandma’s do… feed everyone (cake emoji),” Wanda replied. It has been six years since the original exchange, but Hinton plans to return to Dench’s again this year to share a Thanksgiving meal. Dench even invited Hinton’s girlfriend, Mikaela, to join them. 

  After six years Wanda and Jamal have built a tight bond. Over the past few years, they have gone on double dates, and would always get lost in conversation. 

    Last year was the first Thanksgiving without Dench’s husband, Lonnie Dench. Lonnie passed due to complications from COVID-19, and Wanda was grateful to have Hinton as company. Dench says that her relationship with Hinton has changed her life. 

    “Jamal taught me that age made absolutely no difference,” Dench said last year.  Because of his influence, she now sees young people in a whole new light.