The Internet’s favorite Thanksgiving tradition continues

Nov 16, 2021, 8:00 AM
A photo of Wanda and Lonnie Dench with Jamal Hinton and his girlfriend. (Jamal Hinton via Twitter)
(Jamal Hinton via Twitter)

It started six years ago when Wanda Dench sent out texts to remind and invite family to come to Thanksgiving dinner. But Dench mistakenly sent that text to a 17-year-old Jamal Hinton who was sitting in class at a Mesa Arizona High School.

Hinton was confused and asked who it was that was sending this invite.

“Your grandma 👵,” Dench responded.

Hinton asked for a picture, and Dench sent a smiling selfie. Hinton sent his own from class saying he didn’t think she was his grandma, but asked if he could still get a plate.

“Of course you can,” Dench said. “That’s what grandma’s do… feed everyone.”


Just like that, an unlikely friendship began that’s continued for the last six years.

Hinton told Time it felt weird that first Thanksgiving, but it’s turned out to be a great thing.

“She’s a great cook and she’s a great person to just hang out with,” he said.

“We don’t watch TV or anything. We just sit at the table for a couple of hours and talk the whole time and tell stories and see how we’ve been,” he added.

“Time kind of just flies, we don’t even realize how long we’ve been there. They’re really good company.”


Dench told ABC 15 in Arizona that she thinks all the positive attention this story has received has been incredible, and she thinks there’s a higher power at play.

“This wasn’t me, it’s come from God above,” she said. “He’s just using us as his tools and vessels to bring a message to others.” 

This year that message has reached more people than ever, when Hinton tweeted that they were on for a sixth meeting, his post has received more than 110,000 retweets and over 1.1 million likes. 


This year, like last year, the gathering will be a bit smaller. Dench’s husband Lonnie died from COVID-19 last April. But Hinton and Dench said Lonnie would have wanted to make sure the tradition continued.

“[Lonnie] was a big part of the Thanksgiving story and a big part of our lives, but that’s one thing Wanda and I know for sure. Lonnie would have been very angry if we didn’t have Thanksgiving together,” Hinton told CNN.

Big turkeys are back for an IRL Thanksgiving

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The Internet’s favorite Thanksgiving tradition continues