FROSTPROOF, Fla. | Marcia Forsett, a former lawyer, one day found herself unable to work, buried in medical bills and struggling to pay off her student loans. But thanks to a helping hand, she is getting back on her feet and finding a way to give back to her community.

A 2002 graduate of Thurgood Marshall School of Law, Marcia was ready to take on the world as a new attorney at the Highlands County Public Defender’s Office.

“That was my first introduction to how easy it is to slip through the cracks,” Marcia said. “Poor people are just assumed to be guilty.”

Now 53 years old, she never would have assumed how quickly she could lose all she worked for.

Marcia was overcome by a number of health problems, including diabetes, high blood pressure, hip dysplasia and a heart arrhythmia, just a few years into the law career she fought so hard for. As her health declined, her ability to practice diminished and Marcia was forced to realize her dream was over.

“There are days I can’t even get out of bed,” she said.

The student debt from law school was crushing and the stack of medical bills continued to pile up. Getting disability was a challenge but Marcia knew it was the only way to receive the most basic needs.

And she fought.

Walking into the Frostproof Care Center in 2012 to ask for assistance with food and her electric bill was something she never thought she would have to do. But the Care Center did more than just give her the help she asked for.

Thanks to its partnership with United Way of Central Florida, the Frostproof Care Center offers a financial fitness program, free to anyone in the local community. Marcia was quick to enroll and, ever the student, she also signed up for the free credit counseling program.

“It was very eye-opening,” Marcia said. “I’d been doing it wrong all these years. I’d just spend money until I didn’t have it anymore. But I thought I could turn it around and I think I’ve missed one financial fitness class since 2012.”

Marcia learned tools to make the most of her disability income and now makes consistent deposits into her savings account, uses a monthly budget plan and has improved her credit score.

After years of growing her savings account, Marcia was recently able to purchase a car and stop relying on public transportation.

Now that Marcia has learned to manage her own financial needs, she started her own nonprofit organization, Marcia’s Sons of Thunder, to keep young children engaged in educational activities during the summer as well as instill valuable life lessons.

“I want to teach the kids to respect themselves and to respect others, the community and to have basic, good character,” she said. “These kids are just starving for attention, and they’re bright.

Marcia’s Sons of Thunder patterned with the Frostproof Care Center to hold a weeklong camp for first and second graders to teach math, money and exercises.

Christie Sitek, Executive Director of the care center, said she’s thrilled with Marcia’s success and that she is continuing to help others.

“It’s not just about her now, she’s giving back to the community,” Christie said. “She’s gotten stable and now she says, ‘What can I do for someone else?’ It’s very full circle.”

Marcia credits all her success to the classes she attended at the care center.

“The Frostproof Care Center is absolutely vital in this area,” Marcia said. “It was hard, but not as hard as I thought it would be. If I can do it, anyone can.”