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Left to right: Mikel Blair, Courtney Spaeth, Barbara Guterman, and Mary Barth

Featured Article

Women Leaders Who Give Back

Four Potomac Women Include Philanthropy in Their Busy Lives

Article by Marie Robey Wood

Photography by Tony Powell

Originally published in Potomac Lifestyle

On International Women’s Day 2021 four outstanding Potomac women leaders in business and philanthropy met with Potomac Lifestyle at the Four Seasons Hotel DC to discuss their philosophies of giving back to the community. Meet these women doers.

Barbara Guterman

Barbara Guterman believes in giving back. A well-known Potomac entrepreneur and community activist, she serves as Vice Chairman of KEEN Greater DC (Kids Enjoy Exercise Now), a volunteer organization which provides exercise and recreational opportunities to young people with significant developmental and physical disabilities, at no cost to their families. Visit

Barbara has been involved with KEEN for over twelve years, beginning when she attended one of their galas and fell in love with what they do for children, teens and young adults. She now chairs all their galas. What makes KEEN special is the fact that each young person is paired with a trained volunteer where they do individual activities tailored to their needs and interests, such as basketball, soccer, dancing, swimming, bowling and yoga, to name of few.

Barbara notes that when the COVID-19 lock-down occurred about a year ago, KEEN was the first non-profit within Montgomery County to offer all their activities online. KEEN also includes a parent-to-parent group so parents who are feeling isolated and disenfranchised may now participate in calls with other parents for support. Often experts in different fields join in on the calls to inform them as well.

In 2018, Barbara founded an organization called TEACH, GIVE, INSPIRE Fridays–TGIF–a women’s speaker series that features quarterly meetings with guests invited to inspire attendees and give them an opportunity to connect with others. Although the group has been meeting virtually since the pandemic they plan on going back to quarterly in-person meetings in 2021.

Mary Barth

Philanthropist Mary Barth is proud of her three daughters whom she is raising to be, “strong women who are global citizens.” The same may be said of Mary herself, who was born in Tanzania but has lived in the DC area for the last 38 years. She is a firm believer in supporting organizations that help young girls obtain an education when it otherwise wouldn’t be available to them. “When you empower a woman or a girl you provide a future for them,” she reflects. “It is women who will take those pennies and feed their children.”

One of the organizations Mary supports is Cash and Rocket, a global enterprise that raises funds through a car tour, for girls’ education. Every year eighty women from all over the world compete in four cities, for four days, driving forty cars. Cash and Rocket attracts strong, glamorous women who work hard to, “drive the change.” This year they plan to drive from Barcelona to Florence. Visit support an organization called Sumbandila, where they help fund merit scholarships to children living in one of the poorest regions of South Africa. Visit Cash and Rocket also contributes to the Helen Bamber Foundation, currently run by Dame Emma Thompson. This charity supports refugees and asylum seekers who have survived extreme human cruelty. Visit

Mary has also been involved for 20 years in Knock Out Abuse, a well-known local non-profit helping transitional women and children.

In addition she and her husband are big supporters of The Salmon Center in Washington state, whose mission is to ensure the future abundance of wild salmon in the Pacific.

Courtney B. Spaeth

Friends and colleagues of Courtney Spaeth may be forgiven for thinking she could be mistaken for the real Wonder Woman for all that she has done and still accomplishes in her day-to-day life.

Her work resume and philanthropic endeavors are impressive to say the least. Previous job experiences include serving as Corporate Vice President of Homeland Security for Raytheon and working in the Clinton White House. In 2007 she founded her own company, Growth[period], which helps companies in both the commercial and federal sectors achieve smart growth through business development and acquisitions.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Courtney was raised with the ethos of helping those less fortunate than herself. She follows that philosophy in her company of 51 employees who are required to give a minimum of eight hours of community service to a legitimate non-profit every year.

Courtney leads by example and the list of causes she actively supports and boards she sits on is vast, including the US Holocaust Museum, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Marymount University in Virginia, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., and the Trustees Council for Women at the University of Pennsylvania. In the recent past she also found the time to mentor service members when she served on the board of Hope for the Warriors.

She and her husband have three children, 31, 25 and 5. Together they co-own the ice cream store Sprinkles Potomac. In addition to all this activity she is currently a candidate for her Global Executive MBA in a triple degree program at the London School of Economics, NYU Stern School of Business and HEC in Paris, where she will graduate in 2022.

Mikel Blair

Mikel and husband David Blair keep busy raising a blended family of six children in Potomac as well as staying involved in multiple community and philanthropic organizations.

Mikel has started two endeavors near and dear to her heart, both the result of a women’s circle, a “soul circle,” she discovered eight years ago that had a profound effect on her. She describes it as, “A kind of meeting of the minds that not only deepens the relationship in the group but has a ripple effect on every relationship thereafter.” Inspired by this experience she founded Badlands in 2017, a popular and unique play center that offers exhibits with interactive learning experiences, new learning programs and private events, including field trips and birthday parties. Unfortunately, because of the ongoing pandemic, Badlands is currently in hibernation.

In 2020 Mikel decided to shift and created an online community called Awakeish that had the same mission of creating a conscious community with an emphasis of no judgment. Visit She writes that she saw the need for a space such as Awakeish during the pandemic, “When the world seemed desperately in need of a place for people to find themselves again and make meaningful connections and conversations.” She describes it as “a conscious community that offers exclusive content for our members and guidance from ‘mindful moderators for the sole purpose of cultivating joy.”

The creators of Awakeish practice what they preach. Mikel writes that, “We won't get stuck by the 'destination' or the trap of 'if only' mentality. We offer space to explore (and practice) Being on Purpose, (the freedom of taking responsibility, co-creating conscious relationships), The Power of the Enneagram, (a basic personality test with nine different categories of personalities), Conscious Parenting and much more.” She summarizes, “In a nutshell, what do we want to do with who we are? Though clear and direct, it's not an easy question to answer and even more difficult to put into practice. As we like to say, this ish may be tough but so are we.”

During all this activity she and David have stayed committed to The David and Mikel Blair Family Foundation, which they fund. Started in 2008, their foundation focuses on education, equality and the environment. These three cores are the compass and guide to all the foundation's initiatives. They focus on helping individuals and giving them access to opportunity ranging from literacy and equity in education to at-risk youth programs and mental health access.

Soon Mikel and David are going to be busier than ever. In 2018 David lost the race for Montgomery County Executive in the six-way Democratic primary by a mere 77 votes. He has decided to again throw his hat in the ring for the next election in 2022.

  • Barbara Guterman
  • Mikel Blair
  • Mary Barth
  • Courtney
  • Standing left to right: Mikel Blair, Barbara Guterman, Courtney Spaeth and seated, Mary Barthand Mary l Blair, Barbara
  • Women leaders Mary Barth, Mikel Blair, Barbara Guterman and Courtney Spaeth join Potomac Lifestyle Publisher KC Cole and contributing writer Marie Wood
  • Left to right: Mikel Blair, Courtney Spaeth, Barbara Guterman, and Mary Barth