Ones to Watch 2023 Spotlight: Canieria Gardner

The founder and CEO of Incubate Neighborhood Center in Fort Pierce connects underserved communities with much-needed resources

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Canieria Gardner. Photo by Jason Nuttle
Canieria Gardner. Photo by Jason Nuttle

The Community Connector: Canieria Gardner

Fort Pierce resident Canieria Gardner sees opportunities everywhere she looks. As the founder and CEO of Incubate Neighborhood Center in Fort Pierce, Gardner, 44, has created a hub to connect one of the most underserved communities on the Treasure Coast with much-needed resources. Originally from Vero Beach, Gardner began her career in sales, marketing, and financial services, ascending to management positions. When she was in her mid-thirties, she knew she would eventually have to relocate if she stayed in her current career. “I asked myself, ‘How do I want to live my life?’” recalls Gardner, who was living in Orlando at the time. She moved home in 2004 and started working in foster care, then workforce development, and eventually took a job as executive director of United Against Poverty in Fort Pierce. “I started noticing a lot of gaps in services,” says Gardner, who soon turned her focus to the Lincoln Park neighborhood, a 2.5-square-mile residential area of Fort Pierce where 57 percent of the residents live below poverty level. There, she saw an opportunity to build a community hub, and in April 2022, she opened Incubate Neighborhood Center in the old Means Court Elementary School, which was once the only school in St. Lucie County for Black students. Through Incubate, Lincoln Park residents are able to enroll in homeownership and entrepreneurship programs. The center also has an internet café, a library, and conference rooms and hosts regular community events. Gardner hopes to open similar hubs in underserved communities throughout the country. “It’s very important for people in these communities to have a place to go,” she says. “We’re trying to level the playing field for them.” 

Shot on location at the Incubate Neighborhood Center in Fort Pierce

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