Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench have kept their annual Thanksgiving tradition going for the last six years since their unexpected union in 2016. The friends first met after Dench mistakenly invited Hinton over for dinner through a text meant for her 24-year-old grandson. The message went through to Hinton on accident as her grandson had changed his number.
Initially, the two were surprised.
“The text said, ‘Thanksgiving at my house’ and it was from a grandma, but I was like, ‘When did my grandma learn to text!?’ ” a 17-year-old Hinton told PEOPLE back in November 2016. “So I asked her for a picture and it definitely was not my grandma.”
After the big mix-up, Hinton jokingly texted Dench, “Can I still get a plate tho?” to which she replied, “Of course you can. That’s what grandma’s do…feed everyone.”
Hinton, now, 22, is gearing up to meet Dench for another amazing Thanksgiving feast. “We are all set for year 6!” he tweeted on Nov. 14 along with a screenshot of her invitation for dinner. His girlfriend, Mikaela, and his family will be joining once again this year.
Hinton also shared an emotional picture of himself with Dench and her late husband Lonnie, who passed away in April 2020 after a difficult battle with COVID-19, PEOPLE reported. The Phoenix, Arizona native broke the sad news on his Instagram page noting that both Dench and her husband had contracted the disease last year.
“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,” he wrote at the time.
However, several days later, Hinton posted a heartbreaking announcement that Lonnie had passed away due to complications from COVID.
“Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!” he said of social media’s loving embrace for the family during their hardship.
Hinton previously told PEOPLE that he thought Dench’s kind Thanksgiving gesture was “was so unexpected, but she was just so sweet about it.”
“It was a reminder that there are still some good people left in this world,” he added. “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.”
Dench echoed a similar sentiment to NBC Nightly News stating that she and Hinton immediately clicked upon meeting.
“I just clicked when I met him and first talked to him,” she explained to the outlet. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I want to get to know this guy.’”
After building such a strong relationship with Hinton, Dench now truly believes that anyone can be considered family, even if you aren’t blood-related. Dench often traveled with her father, who served in the Navy, so she would constantly come into contact with new people all the time, ABC News noted.
“We moved around a lot so I was always going to new places. And so strangers were not strangers to me,” she told the outlet. “Family is more than blood. It’s the people you want to be with.”