Airbnb, ‘Thanksgiving Grandma’ team up to bring strangers together for holiday


PRESCOTT VALLEY, Ariz. — A friendship that started seven years ago thanks to a misdialed text message is still going strong and is now expanding to bring more strangers together for Thanksgiving.

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Wanda Dench mistakenly texted then-teen Jamal Hinton in 2016. Dench was trying to send an invite to her grandson, but instead sent it to Hinton, not knowing her grandson had a new phone number. Hinton told Dench that he would love to come to dinner and the rest, as they say, is history, The Associated Press reported.

Hinton was 17 at the time, People magazine reported. He’s now 24.

Jamal Hinton, Wanda Dench

Now, the tradition that started with Dench and Hinton is being shared with other complete strangers thanks to a partnership between Dench and Airbnb.

Their chance meeting has led to a lifelong friendship that Dench wants others to experience.

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“That would be pretty cool to see people wanting to share a good experience and then open it up to other strangers as well,” she told USA Today.

Guests can sign up to have dinner with Dench and Hinton on Nov. 20 at her new home in Prescott Valley, Arizona, and stay the night.

Airbnb is charging $16 for dinner and overnight accommodations in honor of when the pair’s story started. Those chosen will have to pay their own travel expenses to get to Arizona.

Once there, they will have turkey, mashed potatoes and Costco pumpkin pie, which is Dench’s favorite. They’ll also take selfies, watch movies and play board games throughout the night.

“For me, it’s always the great conversations,” Hinton told USA Today. “I mean, me and Wanda, we talk about anything. We talked about tattoos, we talk about conspiracies that we think of, we talk about our families, we talk about our goals and our future and things that we want to accomplish and do.”

Airbnb is also donating to Feeding America as part of the booking.

There are a few rules, of course. The opportunity is for two people. They must be 18 or older and have a verified profile plus a good record on Airbnb. They also have to confirm their address by giving a government-issued ID, USA Today reported.