A text from a wrong number offering up a plate of turkey dinner has led to a beloved Thanksgiving tradition for 20-year-old Jamal Hinton. Hinton was just 17 when a woman claiming to be his grandmother invited him for dinner over a group text in 2016. A swap of selfies quickly revealed Hinton, who is black, and Wanda Dench, who is white, were strangers, not relatives. But that was no reason for the pair living 25 minutes apart in Arizona not to share a meal, per the Washington Post. Hinton says he was only joking when he texted back, "Can I still get a plate tho?" But Dench was so welcoming that he knew they had to get together. And they did—in 2016, in 2017, and in 2018—taking selfies along the way. This year, they'll do it all again.
"It turned out to be a great thing," Hinton tells Time. "She's a great cook and she's a great person to just hang out with … 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." In a video from the 2018 dinner, Dench explains her father was in the Navy and her husband, Lonnie, was in the Army, "so I was always going to new places. And so strangers were not strangers to me." She adds, "Family is more than blood. It's the people you want to be with." Hinton, who will spend this Thanksgiving with Dench at the home of his girlfriend's aunt, says his good friend certainly fits that criteria. Dench, now 62, is "a really good person," he tells ABC News. "I really enjoy the time I spend with her." (Read more Thanksgiving stories.)