State fails to acknowledge true benefit of fundraisers.

Local residents who've helped clean up Garden City and Finney County were in the spotlight recently.

The well-deserved recognition included a tribute to former Garden City stormwater coordinator Stephen Jones, who helped organize the Neighborhood Improvement Project (NIP). The NIP works to combat graffiti and gang activity, encourage people to be on the lookout for suspicious activity and clean up neighborhoods by removing junk cars and other eyesores.

Local teens and adults participate in the project, which has become a sterling example of people willing to pitch in and make their community a better place to live.

On the other hand, unfortunately, we have bureaucrats in Topeka who would spoil ongoing efforts of Kansans eager to help friends and neighbors in need.

The Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission has made it clear that it will pursue efforts to shut down poker runs and other comparable fundraisers it considers illegal gambling.

In popular poker runs, participants pay an entry fee and drive to different locations to pick up playing cards in hopes of collecting the best hand and winning a prize. Local poker runs have benefited families of fallen soldiers, Meals on Wheels for the elderly and breast cancer research, among other causes.

But that potential good matters not to Racing and Gaming, which has warned that anyone who dares to have a poker run, Texas Hold 'Em poker tourney or other comparable fundraiser could face criminal charges.

The heavy-handedness appears to be a misguided attempt to protect Kansas' interest in gambling even though during fiscal year 2012, the state reported nearly $200 million in revenue from casinos and more than $240 million from its lottery.

Poker runs are hardly a threat.

Kansas, naturally, is one of just four states with no charitable gaming exceptions to their laws. A state legislature intent on cutting funding to programs for vulnerable residents should at least support fundraisers that could fill some of the void.

Lawmakers also should recognize that people generous enough to help others in a fun, harmless way should be praised, and not singled out as if they were criminals.