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Ashley Novoa

Founder & President

Ashley Novoa is the founder of Chicago Period Project. She was raised in Pilsen by her father, a Mexican immigrant, and her mother, a first-generation Mexican immigrant. Her parents struggled and worked long hours to provide her and her two siblings with their humble upbringing, and to send Ashley to private high school and two years at DePaul University. Provoked by the election this November, Ashley and some internet moms banded together to begin Chicago Period Project, and since then have collected tens of thousands of menstrual hygiene products. Ashley is also a stay-at-home mom to a three year old boy, who she’s teaching all about normal bodily functions — including periods. 

My period story

"I grew up in a household where we just didn’t talk about personal things. Periods was definitely one of those topics we didn’t discuss. I’m not sure if it was a generational thing or cultural, but my mother’s advice, like it was for most things, was “You’ll learn about that in school”. 

I vividly remember being 12 years old in the Boy’s and Girl’s Club bathroom, getting ready to go out for my basketball game, when I looked down and saw blood on my underwear and basketball shorts. The day had finally come, yet I hadn’t learned about it in school yet like my mom thought I would. I was bloody and I was scared! I had no idea what was happening to me! Was I sick? Did I hit my self? WAS I DYING?! I yelled out to my friend who then ran to get my mom and coach to calm down my hysterics. My coach came in with an extra, but too big, pair of shorts and my mom came in to offer moral support. Eighteen years later my period can still sometimes bring hysterics, because duh periods can suck, but at least now I know how to manage it." 


Our Board

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Shelby Allison
Vice President

Shelby Allison co-owns Lost Lake, a tropical cocktail bar in Chicago that opened in 2015 and has twice been a James Beard Foundation semifinalist for Outstanding Bar Program (2016, 2017), as well as one of Esquire’s Best Bars in America (2017). Shelby is also a co-founder of Banana Daiquiri, LLC, a creative partnership + consulting company that builds unique cocktail programs and creates immersive guest experiences for clients around the country. Along with Allison Burque, Shelby curates Shift-Ease, a monthly charitable party at Lost Lake that supports local Chicago organizations working for progressive racial, economic, and gender justice.

My Period Story

When I was in seventh grade, I went to a Baltimore Orioles baseball game with my dad. During the game I got my period, and it quickly went through my jean shorts. I had to make a toilet paper ‘tampon’ (ouch!) and squeeze it in for the rest of the game — plus the ride from Baltimore back to our house in northern Virginia. If periods didn’t come with so much stigma, I could have just told my dad what was up. Instead, I ruined a cute pair of shorts and an even cuter memory of going to a baseball game with my dad.

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Allison Burque

Allison Burque is a licensed therapist, organizer, and dedicated advocate for the health and political agency of Chicago's queer community. Prior to establishing her private practice, she was a social worker for Howard Brown Health Center and a member of the DJ collective Chances Dances. She is the co-organizer of Shift-Ease at Lost Lake, a monthly night that provides direct fundraising for grassroots racial, economic, and gender justice groups in Chicago. 


My story is recent cause after 20 years of bleeding I still don't get it right! I had a conversation with CPP founder Ashley Novoa over the summer and she told me about the need for underwear for period kits. Ashley explained that underwear is expensive, it's not regularly donated, and it's what is the most highly requested by CPP recipients. Later that week I put on my very best look and headed to the V103 Block Party to see Nelly and Kelly do their thing. About two minutes in I went to the Porta Potty and realized I had busted through my underwear (and tbh also my Levis). So I awkwardly peeled out of them, tossed the undies (in the hole!), tied my jacket, and shamefully went about my night. Literally everyone has been there, but that experience made me reflect on my privilege in having access to menstrual supplies and made me dedicated to getting underwear donations for CPP!

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Selva Urzagaste

Selva Urzagaste immigrated to Chicago from Santa Cruz, Bolivia with her mother and sisters at a young age. Her mother’s entrepreneurial and independent spirit has influenced her greatly, including her professional role operating a local Chicago start-up. Her passion for social justice and helping women has led her to Chicago Period Project, bringing with her the experience in growing a new organization.


I grew up with 4 sisters and I was the youngest. I knew what a period was. Yet, when I got mine in 5th grade I hid it from my family. I didn’t tell anyone. My sister was doing my laundry and she found my beige blood stained gap overalls at a laundromat. I was embarrassed to be discovered! They gave me pads and that’s all I used the first two years. My family was old school and that’s all my sisters used. Then periods weren’t fun. I couldn’t swim when I was on my period. I remember the first time my friend offered me a tampon so we could go swimming in her pool. I looked at the diagram and I did it, all by myself! I wore my first tampon and got to swim on my period. Before I discovered midol and thinx underwear, wearing a tampon during my period was one the most empowering moments in my life.

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Laura Gutierrez

Laura Gutierrez is a community leader and volunteer with more than 10 years of experience in the non-profit sector. She graduated with a B.A. from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She currently works in philanthropy for a non-profit community foundation. She was born and raised on the southside of Chicago and is a proud White Sox fan. Her volunteer experience includes being crisis line volunteer for Sarah's Inn, Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry board member, social chair and advisory member of the NextGen Leaders in Philanthropy. She is very passionate about empowering women and under-served individuals to a better quality of life.


I am the youngest of four siblings with 10+ years in between me and the oldest. By the time this "thing" called my period began, my mom barely talked to me. She never told me what would happen or how to handle; she assumed my older sisters would have told me.
Fast forward to my first period at 13 years old on fun spring day playing outside with my friends at a park two blocks from my home. I was playing on the swings and thought I peed a little so I told my friends I had to go home for a second. I ran home and saw that there was a little blood on my underwear and overalls- yes, overalls. I panicked and screamed for my mom but she was not around so I started to tear up and felt hopeless in dramatic teenage fashion. Luckily, my friends ended up coming back to my house a few minutes later and brought the "rescue." They’d both had their periods already so they threw a lot of period jargon at me and said they used tampons.
As I look back, this was a very funny moment to picture my two best friends in the tub with the curtain closed while I was trying to insert a tampon while looking at the instructions and listening to them at the same time. I ended up using a pad. When my mom came home and realized what was going on, there was no talk about my period other than, "Babe, this will happen every month."