Audrey Hoffa takes a break from raking recently outside her home in Richmond. She says she is debating whether to serve turkey or chicken on Thanksgiving. Jessica Lowell/Kennebec Journal

RICHMOND — Audrey Hoffa was facing a bit of a dilemma: With Thanksgiving only days away, she was not sure of her plans.

“If there’s a group of us, we’ll have turkey,” Hoffa said, while taking a break from raking leaves in her yard on Gardiner Street while her chickens pecked here and there. “But if it’s just a couple of us, we’ll have chicken.”

The bigger dilemma was whether Hoffa, who has just moved to Richmond from near Lebanon, New Hampshire, would be able to get the bird of her choice this year.

For most of 2020, daily life has been hammered and shaped by the global coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 has affected everything, from business and school closures to panic-fueled purchases of sanitizers, cleaners and toilet paper. In some cases, the demand for meat prompted some stores to impose purchase limits.

And rather than big gatherings of extended families and friends from near and far, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has issued guidelines for the holiday that encourage celebrating at home with people who live with you, and avoiding travel and large groups.

Now nine months into the pandemic, most kinks in the supply chain for groceries and household goods have been smoothed out, but people are still worried the centerpiece of the American Thanksgiving is in short supply.

Whether that is true depends on what you want and where you shop.

On the weekend before Thanksgiving, people across central Maine streamed into grocery stores to pick up fixings for their Thanksgiving meals. And by Sunday, the poultry sections of meat departments at chain grocery stores, such as Hannaford and Shaw’s, still had large turkeys in coolers, with smaller turkeys in need of restocking.

Frozen turkeys were in stock Saturday at Goggin’s IGA in Randolph. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

That was not the case for specialty sellers, such as Gorham’s Orchard Ridge Farm & Specialty Market and others, which have announced they are sold out of Thanksgiving turkeys.

So, too, is Emery’s Meat & Produce in Gardiner.

On Saturday, the shop’s shipment of 130 turkeys arrived and were being sorted by size for pickup through the week.

“We will do the best to get people as close as possible what they want,” owner Jessica Emery said.

The turkeys were ordered — 100 from Maine-ly Poultry in Warren, ranging from 15 to 25 pounds, and 30 smaller ones from Greaney’s Turkey Farm in Mercer, ranging from 12 to 15 pounds.

While she had orders for 130 birds and cut off orders two weeks ago, Emery said she could have sold 200 or more this year. Over the past two weeks, about 50 more people have called in search of turkeys.

“People are going small and local,” she said.

In other years, four households might gather for a large dinner. But this year, she said, those four households are each making their own dinners.

If there is a shortage in smaller turkeys, she said, it is because the pandemic hit after the process of raising turkeys for this year had already started. Her contact at Maine-ly Poultry said he was able to grab some smaller chicks to raise into smaller turkeys for the holidays.

One bellwether for turkey availability is food bank donations.

Some of the frozen turkeys were cut in half Saturday at Goggin’s IGA in Randolph. With state officials requesting people stay home for Thanksgiving, not as many large turkeys are being sold, according to grocers. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

On Saturday, Mike Mansir and Al MacMaster were stationed at the designated Gardiner collection point for frozen turkeys to be donated to Chrysalis Place, one of the food pantries that operates in Gardiner.

Another collection point was set up across the Kennebec River in Randolph, at Goggin’s IGA. Chrysalis Place serves families in Gardiner, West Gardiner, Farmingdale, Chelsea, Randolph and Pittston.

The success of the turkey drive is in the timing. Mansir said the week before Thankgiving is when turkeys go on sale, which makes it easier for people to afford to make the donation. Chrysalis Place has freezers to hold the turkeys until they are distributed in food baskets for the Christmas holidays.

By midday, Mansir and MacMaster had collected about $70 in donations and 22 turkeys of all sizes.

If Hoffa opts for a turkey, and only large ones are available, she can deal with that.

“I would package it up into separate meals,” she said. “My sister does that, too. If she has a large turkey, she takes half of it and freezes it. That way she can have Monte Cristos later.”

The Monte Cristo is an egg-dipped ham-and-cheese sandwich that is pan or deep fried. A variation includes turkey.

If Hoffa opts for chicken, she said it would come from the grocery store.

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