Debra at the Doo-Dah Parade in 2021. Photo: Marta Nammack

Debra Evalds

Philanthropist, change-maker and the ultimate Lewes ambassador leading the charge for our beloved beach fireworks divulges what moves her to make ripples wherever she goes.

Anyone who has ever spent a Fourth of July in Lewes knows it’s the consummate small-town celebration, both quaint and quirky, with tons of nostalgia and plenty of flair. Pulling off an Independence Day that brings a bang (pun intended) is no small effort and requires the work of many. After the State Fire Marshall notified Lewes that private fireworks would no longer be ignored or tolerated on beaches in the summer of 2017, Debra Evalds and her husband Paul, along with a few other local citizens, refused to accept a beach town without Fourth of July fireworks. They formed Go Fourth, a nonprofit organization with a management committee that includes Russ Palmer and Ted Becker, to bring them back, safely and legally. But what most people don’t know is the fireworks are not funded by the City of Lewes or any other entity; they requires a long list of donors, including local individuals, businesses and organizations to make the fireworks fly. “There’s nothing like Lewes on the Fourth of July, and the Lewes Beach fireworks are the crown jewel, but there are serious costs involved,” Debra says. She is no newbie to fundraising nor philanthropy and when she sees an opportunity to make a change, she jumps in headfirst. “I’ve never been someone to sit back and watch the world go by; if I see something that needs to be addressed, I can’t help but be an advocate,” says Debra.

“When we moved here, we did it to live, to contribute, to give back to the community.”
— Debra Evalds

She’s also no novice when it comes to local happenings; her ancestors date back to the 1700s in the Seaford area. After leaving a career in politics as a campaign coordinator and later as an elementary special education teacher, she relocated to Lewes from suburban Pennsylvania when her husband Paul moved his business, Avatar Instruments, there. In Lewes, she dedicated her life to purpose. “When we moved here, we did it to live, to contribute, to give back to the community,” she says. These days, she serves on countless committees and subcommittees, including The Lewes Planning Commission; is an environmental advocate; is the cofounder of Lewes Lights, a grass roots, community-created Christmas light display; runs her own business, New Hope Vizsla Rescue; and is married to Santa Claus – she and Paul dress up every Christmas to play the roles for the town.

She credits the motivation to make change as an innate desire. “I once went to this class, I think it was for advocating for children, and the instructor said the best analogy that really resonated with me,” she recalls. “There are three types of people in this world: there are sheep who follow, wolves who are predators or selfishly motivated and there are sheepdogs who look after others, who have that innate desire.


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