“Thanksgiving Grandma” Welcomes Guests
News Shorts
Posted: November 21, 2023
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    Jamal Hinton, left, and Wanda Dench take a selfie together after meeting for Thanksgiving dinner on November 24, 2016, in Mesa, Arizona. (Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic via AP)
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    Jamal Hinton, center, Wanda Dench, right, and her family and friends have Thanksgiving dinner in 2016. (Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic via AP)
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    Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench still celebrate Thanksgiving together in 2023. (Jamal Hinton/Instagram)
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  • K3 Jamal Hinton and Wanda Dench credit Jamal Hinton Instagram


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Seven years ago, Wanda Dench invited the wrong person to Thanksgiving dinner. It was an accident. But it created a special friendship.

Mrs. Dench meant to send the text invite to her grandson. She didn’t realize he had changed his phone number. The text reached Jamal Hinton instead.

Mr. Hinton was a teenager back then. He jokingly replied he would like to come. Mrs. Dench said he was welcome. He came—and guess what? The two are still friends.

The text started a tradition. Mrs. Dench became known online as “Thanksgiving Grandma.” This year, she opened her home again to two new strangers.

This time, though, the rental company Airbnb helped her out. Two guests could sign up for the chance to eat an early holiday dinner on November 20 with Mrs. Dench and Mr. Hinton. They also got an overnight stay at Mrs. Dench’s home in Prescott Valley, Arizona.

Airbnb also announced that it would make a donation to Feeding America. That organization is a network of food banks across the country.

“I said from the jump of our first Thanksgiving that I always wanted to have more people join our Thanksgiving and be able to celebrate with and have the amount of fun that we have together,” Mr. Hinton tells USA Today.

What was on the menu at Grandma’s house this year? Turkey, mashed potatoes, and Mrs. Dench’s favorite Costco pumpkin pie. Activities for the guests included joining Mrs. Dench and Mr. Hinton’s annual selfie, watching movies, and playing board games.

The charge on Airbnb to sign up for the dinner and overnight stay was $16. That amount was chosen to match the year Mrs. Dench and Mr. Hinton met—2016. Guests had to pay for their own travel.

Mrs. Dench said she hopes others are inspired to be open to new friendships.

God tells His people to show hospitality. Has your family ever invited a stranger to dinner?

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. — Hebrews 13:2